Strelley community kids learn skills for life

23 March 2020

Swimming and water safety skills are so vital for all Western Australians and making sure these skills are taught to those in remote and regional parts of our state is a real focus for Royal Life Saving WA’s Swim and Survive team. Recent statistics show that those in regional WA are 3.7 times more likely to drown than those in the metro area so swimming and water safety lessons literally can be the difference between life and death in these communities.

A group of Aboriginal children with their teachers and swim instructor sitting on the grass at Gratwick Aquatic CentreStrelley Remote Community School is located in a small aboriginal community about a 50 minute drive inland from Port Hedland. Every Thursday morning during the first part of Term One school teachers Anne and Paul Westerink have driven the school’s bus to the Gratwick Aquatic Centre in Port Hedland and back, so their students could access vital swimming lessons. These lessons have been made possible by the Uncle Tobys Swim My Way program, which is a partnership with Royal Life Saving Australia.

Anne and Paul say that the weekly excursion has been an integral part of the children’s education. “The kids are totally engaged and we see this learning crossing over into their school program.” The students make the most of the play area and grass surrounding to pool, and stop there for a healthy feed before travelling back to community.

As part of the Strelley swim program, the older pupils will be invited to the annual Spirit Swimming and Life Saving Carnival in November. The lessons go a long way in helping the students feel confident about participating in events like these.

Royal Life Saving WA’s Pilbara Development Officer Jacqui Forbes says the lessons have been very well run by swim instructor Belinda Mitchell. “We’re very thankful to Belinda for her participation in this program, she has a strong affinity with the community having travelled out there to assist with early education programs n 2018 - her connection to the community and the families have made a significant impact.”

Belinda says it’s been a real privilege to work with these children. “Teaching the Swim & Survive classes to the kids from Strelley is always going to be rewarding. Not only watching them improve on their swimming skills each week but to see them so focused and committed to their lessons. We’ve really enjoyed connecting with the kids in their own language – Nyangumarta – which has given us all the opportunity to learn, and have a good laugh as we attempt to pronounce different words to describe swimming strokes! Breaststroke legs in our classes are known as the Pupuka (Frog) Kick!”

It's so good to see these children having a great time in these lessons, whilst keeping healthy and learning a skill for life, and Royal Life Saving WA looks forward to seeing the older children in action when the Spirit Swimming and Lifesaving Carnival returns in November this year!

You can read more about our work with regional and remote aboriginal communities at the link below.

Explore more button